Messages and Minerva
Hermione shook her head in exasperation.
"No Ron, because I would end up doing all the work and I am not about to hand you a finished project on a plate. Besides we're not allowed to work together. "And", Hermione put on her most innocent face "I didn't think you'd enjoy the one-to-one tuition I'll be having with Professor Snape."
"WHAT?" Roared Ron.
"Got to go, meeting Draco for heads duties you know."
Hermione gave him a quick kiss and wandered off around the corner, stopping to hear how Ron would react to her latest bombshell.
"Well she, I mean honestly, that batty git in the dungeons? I, Neville you agree right? Its just…how can she?"
"Well" replied Neville carefully, "I cant see Hermione wanting to pass up a chance to work with a potions master, and he's the best in the country. And she's very ambitious, wants a good career and everything. She's going to overlook him being a git isn't she?"
"Ambitious career? My mum hasn't got a career and she's happy. Hermione loves me, why cant she want to be happy like mum? Its not like its unusual to be a house-witch."
"Maybe you should be a house-wizard." Snapped Ginny. "It's a great thing to be a stay at home mum if that what you want, but forcing someone who wants to have a career into it is stupid."
"Well I wont have a career wife, its me or a job, and she'll choose me because we're meant for each other. Its love."
Hermione looked down at her feet. She knew Ron wanted a woman like his mother, it was perfectly to be expected. But asking her to choose that future or the one she wanted or lose him was pathetic. Screwing up her fists in suppressed anger Hermione stalked off to meet Malfoy. At least his view of the world was just as cynical as her own.
"And then he said it was my career or him!"
Draco sighed and stopped walking. "Look Hermione, I don't mean to be rude because now we share a common room I'm well aware of how uncomfortable you could make my life. But what is it that makes you feel you can confide all this in me? We hate each other remember? And as much as I love to hear about other peoples troubles, I don't enjoy it so much first hand in a lengthy monologue."
Over the next few weeks Hermione tried everything she could think of to get Ron into her private rooms. She thought that if Ron knew what he was denying himself, he would relax a bit, and even start to shake off his annoyingly goody-goody values and morals.
The argument about her project had been forgotten, as Snape hadn't contacted her about it, and the rest of the year didn't have to think about it at all yet. But Hermione had not forgotten, and had been researching fervently whenever her studies, Head Girl duties and boyfriend troubles allowed.
The library had failed her and she wasn't impressed.
"Hey, Hermione." Hermione turned to see Draco walking towards the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. He was wearing his trademark eat shit and die look, but she could see he was nervous all the same. There were reasons for their two tables being at opposite sides of the hall. She stood to greet him, well aware of everyone's gaze on them.
"What is it Draco?"
He pulled her by the elbow so they were out of eavesdropping range. "I've got a message for you from Snape, he said to make sure only you knew what it was."He grinned at her, "Illicit affair or can I know whats going on?" Hermione grinned back at him.
"Not a chance Draco, to either question."
"I'm sure I'll beat it out of you when we're patrolling. Now I'm out of here before I get hexed."
Beating a deliberately relaxed retreat Draco went back to the Slytherins and Hermione sat back down to read her message.
I have been watching your ill-founded attempts at finding information for your project with pity, come to my classroom at 8pm and I will assist.
"What the bloody hell was that all about Hermione?" Asked Ron angrily. "Why did ferret-face come over to talk to you? Your duties are all scheduled so it wasn't about that."
"You did look like you were having a friendly chat." Added Ginny slowly. "Last year you would have been pissed off if he tried to walk you anywhere by your elbow."
Hermione sighed. "Its nothing guys, you know about the heads enchantment, was a time you found it funny Gin."
"That's just so you're on first name basis, its got nothing to do with being friends."
"What's that note?" Snapped Ron suddenly. "He passed you a note and you grinned when you read it."
"None of your business Ron." Replied Hermione, who was getting irritated now. "it's a private matter."
Everyone around them had gone quiet now, trying hard not to chew too loudly in case they missed anything. "A private matter." repeated Ron slowly. "Private matter. Hermione, we are going out."
"What's that got to do with it?"
"It means there should be no secrets between us, at all. Especially if it concerns you getting secret messages from a Slytherin. We're at war remember."
Hermione looked up at the ceiling and counted to three.
"One, we are not at war Ronald, we're still at school. Two, I am in no way obliged to tell you anything and three, when were you planning on telling me about your little ultimatum while were on the subject of secrets. You know that one about my career or you."
"I'd be at war if it wasn't for mum you know that. And that's not an ultimatum, its common sense. You cant have both lives."
"I resent being presented with the choice Ron, I'm seventeen. Even if I did want to settle down at some point, it would be years from now, not straight out of school. I'm the brightest witch of my bloody age, as I am constantly being reminded. I want a future."
As their voices rose most of the hall was now listening in. Ron and Hermione were one of the couples everyone reckoned were most likely to stay together forever, along with Draco and Pansy and Luna and Neville. This was dramatic.
"Fine, I'll say it now then. It's me or your career Hermione, and if you choose me I want to know what Malfoy wrote on that note he gave you."
Even Ron couldn't ignore the mass swivelling of heads towards the Slytherin table.
"What?" Smiled Draco innocently.
It was at that point that Professor Snape stood up at the teachers table. Even Dumbledore looked surprised. A sudden hush descended over the hall.
"That note." He said quietly. "Was about Miss Grangers detention with me a few weeks ago, which I asked Mr Malfoy to pass on to her bearing in mind their proximity in the Heads quarters. Had I foreseen this scene Mr Weasely has made, I would have passed it on myself." With a smirk he turned to the two Gryffindors, still stood up and ready to continue arguing. "Perhaps twenty points from Gryffindor would help discourage such behaviour."
Ron plonked himself back down in his seat immediately with a dull thud. Hermione however looked Snape square in the eye first seething with anger. "Perhaps professor, I might instead continue my detention with my own head of house."
Snape smiled. "Twenty points each."
Hermione scowled and sat down.
Ron refused to talk to Hermione all day, which she was secretly relieved about. Ginny tried to get them to talk at lunch to no avail. Ron thought that Hermione would back down and see the error of her ways, finally acting like a life partner ought to, while Hermione decided that if Ron was deprived of any physical contact at all, he might be so frustrated by the weekend he'd be up for more than kissing.
After their transfiguration lesson Professor McGonagall called Hermione behind.
"Miss Granger, I've meant to speak to you about your project. The Christmas holidays are on their way, and though your classmates get advice on their projects after then, I thought you might appreciate some early. Professor Snape has been remarkably evasive about what the subject is."
Hermione thought fast, she knew McGonagall wasn't going to like what she heard, Snape had told her that much. But she was bound to find out eventually anyway.
"Its about why the wizarding world allowed the idea of witchcraft to spread, causing thousands of deaths to falsely accused muggles."
"Excuse me professor?"
"You will not be doing your project on that subject."
"If its not too forward Professor, why not? it's a fascinating subject not looked into in any depth."
"On the contrary, there has been sufficient explanation in your history of magic lessons, and the muggle world has printed hundreds of books on the subject. It would be a waste of your ability and I forbid it."
"With all due respect professor, I do not need your approval for this topic. There were no such conditions in the brief you gave us before term started. And it will stretch my abilities as its not been sufficiently researched, there is very little research matter."
"Miss Granger, if you do this project you will have no support or assistance from any teachers. Doesn't that worry you?"
"Not a bit Professor."
Hermione gave McGonagall a tight nod and stormed out of the room. Her instincts had been correct. Not mentioning that Snape was backing her was a good idea, McGonagall had never spoken to her so harshly. If she had explained Snape was going to help her he would have been forced to refuse her help. This project was obviously worth her time. Now what would Snape have to say later on?